How to Get a Flat Stomach & Small Waist

Just doing crunches won't get you the flat stomach and small waist you desire. Excess body fat that lies below the skin or around the organs -- known as visceral fat -- can only be burned off with cardiovascular exercise and a healthy diet. Add targeted ab exercises to define the waist and flatten your stomach.

Trim and Tone

To shrink your stomach and trim your waist, you've got to burn body fat overall by doing regular cardio. Work up a sweat doing brisk walking, running or cycling three to five times each week for 30 to 60 minutes. Keep your intensity moderate to vigorous to burn calories, increase fitness and lower your risk of disease. To boost fat burning, perform resistance exercises with your body weight, free weights or machines two or three times each week on nonconsecutive days. Do one to three sets of eight to 12 reps of each exercise, and do one exercise for each major muscle group.

Ab Training

Work your abs at least three to five days per week to flatten the stomach and tone the muscles of your midsection, according to exercise physiologist Len Kravitz Ph.D. of the University of New Mexico. The core muscles are resistant to fatigue, so they can be worked as often as every day if you choose. Pick five to 10 different exercises that combine different motions such as curling and rotating your spine to work your abs from all angles. Do eight to 12 reps with proper form, then move onto the next exercise. You can perform this ab circuit one to three times with 30- to 60-seconds rest between each circuit.

Effective Abs Workout

ACE-sponsored research conducted by the Biomechanics Lab at San Diego State University studied some common ab exercises and ranked them best to worst as determined by an electromyogram, or EMG. The EMG measured electrical activity in the rectus abdominus and obliques, or stomach and waist. The study found that many of the best ab exercises don't require equipment. To incorporate some of these into your routine, perform a long-arm crunch with your arms extended overhead. Follow that with a bicycle maneuver rotating your torso side to side. Then go right into a reverse crunch lifting your hips off the ground. Keep your legs up and do a vertical leg crunch with your arms behind your head. End your workout with a plank, or hover, and hold for up to 60 seconds.

Eat Healthy, Not Deprived

An unhealthy, high-calorie diet will hide your abs, even if you follow the exercise guidelines. Focus your diet on whole grains, lean proteins, unsaturated fats and lots of fruits and veggies. Include a variety of foods so you don't get bored and to get all the necessary nutrients. Fluids are also important to avoid bloating and to stay hydrated for activity and weight loss. The Food and Nutrition Board released new fluid intake guidelines in 2004 that recommend at least 125 ounces for men and 91 ounces for women daily.